16 bizarre laws around the world that will surprise you

Posted by Ondela Mlandu on 4 October 2017

Rules aren’t meant to be broken. Laws and rules are created to protect us and should be respected – but then there are these bizarre laws.

These strange laws from around the world will make you chuckle, but they still need to be adhered to when travelling there.

1. Flushing the toilet after 22:00, Switzerland

Some Swiss aren’t aware of this law, but it’s said to be at the discretion of the landlord. Personally, I find this law extremely selfish, especially for those of us with weak bladders. This country also has some other eyebrow-raising laws: you can’t hang your laundry outside, mow your lawn on a Sunday (this one I can understand – nobody enjoys excessive noise) and washing your car on a Sunday is prohibited. Just stay at home, read a book and keep your doors closed on a Sunday.

Bern, Switzerland from a different view. Image by Camelia Twu.


2. Smoking in public, Singapore

Singapore is generally very clean without a single cigarette bud on the ground – now I know why. Smoking in Singapore was first banned in enclosed and air-conditioned areas in the late 1970s. If found smoking in Singapore, you could be charged 200 Singapore Dollars. The smoking restrictions are an attempt to not only keep the city clean, but also prevent harm done to citizens by inhaling second-hand smoke.

China Town in Singapore. Image by Khanh Hmoog.


3. Stepping on a Thai Baht, Thailand

If you see money on the floor, you don’t just walk past it right? Well I certainly wouldn’t. The reason you can’t step on a Thai Baht is because the King’s face is imprinted on the notes and engraved on the coins. It’s highly disrespectful to step on the King’s face and doing so would lead to an arrest.

The famous James Bond Island in Khao Phing Kan. Image by Lutz.


4. Feeding a pigeon, San Fransisco

Feeding pigeons is illegal here for health reasons. Pigeons are considered rats with wings in San Francisco, because they carry germs and diseases. The pigeons are also responsible for making the public spaces look filthy.  A fine of between $5 to $300 is charged if caught disobeying the law.

The Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. Image by Stefan Unger.


5. Peeing in the sea, Portugal and Spain

You simply cannot urinate publicly. How will they know if you do? Beats me. Here are some other odd beach laws in some parts of Portugal and Spain: games that involve a ball are prohibited and building sandcastles is not allowed either. Whoever came up with these rules sounds like someone robbed of a childhood. To top it off, if your beach equipment (like a chair) is rusty, the beach inspectors could also ask you to leave.

Beautiful Porto. Image by Francisco Oliveira.


6. Running out of petrol, Germany

Parking your car with an empty tank on the highway in Germany could result in a fine of between 30 and 70 euros. However, stopping on the highway because of a breakdown won’t result in any punishment though. The reason? An empty tank is human error and can be avoided, but a breakdown can’t be foreseen. Do yourselves a favour and just use the bus or a train.

The highway from Thuringia Forest to Bavaria. Image from Linda.


7. Unmarried women sky diving on a Sunday, Florida

What does sky diving, single ladies and Sunday have in common? Absolutely nothing! However, in Florida it’s just not allowed. Rather sexist, wouldn’t you say? What about single men?

Naples Botanical Gardens in Florida. Image by Andrew Scholtz.


8. Driving without headlights, Sweden

In Sweden, having your headlights on is a must at all times. In winter, you also have to change your tyres for the slippery snow. When you know better, you do better.

Södermalm, an island south of Stockholm in Sweden. Image by Jonathan.


9. No jogging, Burundi

Jogging in Burundi is classified as a crime. Jogging was banned in March 2014, after the President Pierre Nkurunziza said people used the activity as a cover to plan suspicious activities. This ‘high-risk’ activity can result in life imprisonment.

The President of Burundi was a former sports educator. Image by Karin Wollgarten.


10. Chewing gum on the Gautrain, South Africa

Let’s bring it a little bit closer to home. Eating, drinking and gum-chewing are not allowed on the Gautrain (the transit railway in Johannesburg). The aim here is to maintain the high standards and the reputation of the train. There are more rules to adhere to when using the Gautrain, read them here.

The City of Gold. Image by Paul Saad.


11. Medicine including asthma pumps, Japan

There are strict rules around medicine in Japan. A person coming into Japan with any kind of medicine has to apply for a permit or certificate. Alternatively, you may be asked to declare the medicine at customs.

Tranquility in Kyoto Japan. Image by Trevor Dobson.


12. Both hands on the steering wheel, Spain

When you did your K53, you were told to never remove your hands from the steering wheel. Same thing applies in Spain. It’s a must that you keep both hands on the steering wheel – and your ears should be visible at all times too. You just let out a ‘huh’ didn’t you? I did too.

A bird’s eye view of Toledo, Spain. Image by Camila Twu.


13. Wearing heels in ancient buildings, Greece

Women are barred from wearing heels at archaeological sites to prevent the damage of the monuments. In Greece, the Acroplis Museum has banned food, drinks and heels because visitors would leave marks on the monuments.

A destination of architecture. Image by Jaafar Alnasser.


14. Singing the national anthem incorrectly in public, Mexico

The Mexican anthem is to be taken seriously. Whoever commits improper use of the national anthems will be found guilty and charged with a fine.

Landscape of Mexico. Image by Nick Kenrick.


15. The ‘Hitler salute’ in public, Germany

The German dictator Adolf Hitler would introduce or end off his speeches with the Nazi salute. This gesture carries up to three years in prison. Do yourself a favour and keep your arms to yourself in Germany and avoid unnecessary drama.

The Brandenburg Gate in Berlin. Image by Achim Fischer.


16. Black cars, Turkmenistan

Turkmenistan in central Asia banned all black cars. The president believes that the colour black brings bad luck, so naturally nobody can drive a black car. The president does however, love the colour white and his entourage only drives white vehicles. There are more odd vehicle-related no-go’s in Turkmenistan. The car can’t be older than five years, no right-hand drive allowed, no sports cars, no engines bigger than three and a half litres and no tinted windows either.

The Hajji Gurbanguly Mosque in Turkmenistan. Image by David Stanley.

Do you know of any unusual laws from around the world? Comment below and tell us about them.

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